CAMEROON: towards the end of the red card for IUU fishing?

11 06 2024 | 07:34Boris Ngounou

To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU fishing) on 5 June 2024, Afrik21 spoke to Elie Badai, head of the fisheries control and monitoring unit at Minpia. He talks about the sanction imposed by the European Union and the measures taken by Cameroon to remedy the situation.

Afrik21: In 2023, the European Union (EU) described Cameroon as complacent in its fight against IUU fishing. How do you explain this sanction, given that the country had already received a warning?

Elie Badai: It’s true that in 2021 we received a yellow card from the European Union. To respond to this warning, we worked with the EU to define 10 actions to be implemented. Despite our efforts, by the end of 2022 we had still not completed these actions, in particular the updating of the Fisheries Act. In early 2023, we were surprised to receive a red card from the European Union. It’s not that the government hadn’t worked, but our efforts weren’t enough to avoid this sanction.

What is being done concretely today to lift this sanction against Cameroon?

To lift this sanction, concrete actions have been defined, particularly on the legal front and in the fight against IUU fishing, both nationally and internationally. One of the main issues is the registration of vessels under the Cameroonian flag that are involved in IUU activities. Unfortunately, some vessels were registered during the yellow card period, which precipitated the red card. Following the sanction, a major meeting chaired by the Prime Minister led to concrete resolutions, including the suspension of all new registrations of fishing vessels in Cameroon and the setting up of a working group to implement corrective measures.

How many vessels have been struck off the Cameroon flag for IUU fishing?

In 2022-2023, we removed 7 vessels from the list of vessels flying the Cameroon flag for IUU fishing activities.

What are the results of the activities carried out in 2023 to combat IUU fishing?

In 2023, MINEPIA made a number of commitments, including monitoring vessels flying the Cameroon flag and operating outside our waters. We received several notifications from countries and organisations, which enabled us to arrest and sanction 15 vessels. Four of these vessels were actually sanctioned. Checks were carried out in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as well as at the landing quays in various ports. Joint patrols with the Ministry of Defence have also been carried out. In addition, the revision of the Fisheries Act has been finalised and sent to the Prime Minister’s department. We hope that this law will be submitted to Parliament for validation during the June session.

The vessels responsible for this penalty are owned by expatriates. What is the situation? Are incentives being put in place to encourage locals to enter this sector?

The registration of ships must be the result of good collaboration between the Ministry of Transport and MINEPIA. The history of the ships is essential in deciding whether or not to allow them to fly our flag. The ownership of the vessels is not the main problem; it is compliance with fishing regulations that is crucial. We are working to improve our monitoring and tracking system to deal with these different aspects.

You pointed out that financial resources were limited to effectively combat IUU fishing in Cameroon. Are there any proposals for financial models to bolster your resources?

Surveillance does indeed require a lot of resources. Moving an army patrol boat, for example, requires around 30,000 litres of fuel. Our small launches are also expensive to operate. A passive surveillance system, via operations centres, could cut costs. Sources of funding come mainly from the State budget and the Caisse de développement de la pêche maritime (CDPM), with a budget of around CFAF 80 million (121,960 euros) for surveillance activities and CFAF 250 million (381,124 euros) for the acquisition of equipment.